Coal fired UP and range fires

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sat Jul 29 10:20:43 EDT 2017

Good afternoon from the UK,

There is a Big Boy in the museum in Denver. It is an impressive piece of
kit. I was lucky enough to see this a few years ago. It is in good

Was the range fire problem a big issue when steam was in full operation on
the N&W and the UP?  In our rain drenched conditions in Britain this is less
of a problem other than in dry spells of which we seem to have very few. It
is raining now!


Phil Mortimer

With regard to the question from the gentleman from the UK, my
understanding is that in the years since the end of steam, coal-fired steam
especially on the UP, the weeds grew closer and closer to the rails without
the *'natural control'* which was maintained back when in the glory days of
steam. In addition, the spark arrestor on Challenger may either have been
no more or otherwise no longer operating properly or even at all. In any
event, there were lots of range fires and the UP found it had to follow the
train with a tanker and hose to douse the problems wherever they appeared.

As for oil-firing, when the engine is parked, you turn off the firing valve
and then the oil and your engine is parked. No banked fires with a pile of
coal. Been there done that, both ways for steam. Always preferred oil over
coal: you don't have to shovel that stuff, that's for sure.

Then again, you also had to have a bunch of sand to sand the flues to clear
them of the soot buildup periodically. Sure made a Lucius Beebe type sight
with all that black soot/smoke blowing out. Might not make EPA pleased but
what the heck.

When we see a Big Boy freely roam the rails again, it will be oil-fired.
Just remember that UP's 8400 class were all coal-fired when received from
Alco and were converted over to oil as time and convenience went on.
Several survivors exist from that class but only the last new steamer
purchased by UP, the 844 remains active and is the ONLY Class 1 carrier's
steam locomotive to have never been retired in the US. UP will surely
get-it-right with the Big Boy and whenever we see it again under its' own
power, it will be the first time since late July 1959 for a Big Boy.

Isn't it great to see these things roam the lands they once called home and
not just see them in a glorified over sized petting zoo going
chuggity-chug-STOP at tourist museums? 611 has delighted fans trackside
many times since 1982 as have others and that is how this animal was meant
to be ............. but wouldn't it be great to see it once again go at the
speeds it was originally designed for. Weren't there signs once on the RR
"Slow down to 90"? I know they existed out west at least.

Oh to dream ................ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Bob Cohen
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list